We all met out outside the foundry, which in fact looked like a small Victorian shop and gave no indication of the industry behind.
Once inside we were shown round by a very informative guide who told us that this foundry was the oldest manufacturing company in Britain, having been established in 1570 (during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I) and being in continuous business since that date. It has made the bells for Bow, St Clements, Big Ben, the Liberty Bell and the very large bell used at the 2012 London Olympics at the opening ceremony.
We were told of the process of manufacturing bells, from casting the moulds to tuning the bells to ensure the perfect match in tonal and pitch quality for each individual project. By a wonderful coincidence the bells that had just been cast were commissioned by St John’s Church, Spencer Hill, Wimbledon.
I’m sure Wimbledon WI members will be following the bells’ progress and eventual hanging (Especially Dulcie, whose daughter is getting married in that church in the spring (? not sure of the date).
We were then shown round all the various departments including the area where they make the bell frames that the bells are hung from.
We were then taken up some very steep and rickety old stairs to the areas where the smaller handbells are finished and leather handles fitted.
Everyone had a very interesting and enjoyable tour and all came away very much more knowledgeable about bells of all sizes and the way they are made.
Thanks to Lou Collis for the description and photos
A cloudy start, but we were pleased it wasn’t raining. 26 of us filled a small coach to Runnymede.
Here we boarded the Lady Margaret Anne boat owned by French Brothers. We had a delightful trip down the Thames looking at the lovely houses fronting on to the river and also the wildlife (ducks, swans, cygnets, geese, heron, grebe and yes, I’m sure I saw a kingfisher!)
Beryl Reid’s honey pot thatched cottage was pointed out to us. She lived here with up to 13 stray cats. Our guide also pointed out Albert Bridge and the Bells pub with the mystery of what happened to the bells destined from Oxford back in Henry 8th’s reign.
Also the bridge which wasn’t strong enough to support bus and passengers, so passenger s had to get off the bus, walk over the bridge and get back on, and Black Pott’s bridge named because of the black soot that gathered on people’s faces!
We had a ploughman’s lunch on board together with optional wine. Then after good views of Windsor Castle and Eton College chapel, back to Runnymede where the coach took us on to Savill Garden. Savill garden is a beautiful garden of35 acres of interconnecting gardens and woodland. We saw the azalea walks, the summer gardens which included magnificent herbaceous borders, the hidden gardens and the lake and the beautiful perfumed rose garden with its dramatic walkway rising over the centre.
We had a welcome cream tea in the restaurant before making our way back to the coach. Our lovely driver Ray got us back to Wimbledon in plenty of time for us to return home in time to see Andy Murray recover himself against Verdasco to gain a place in the semi-finals.
A really good day out. Thank you Gillian.
Twelve of us met up in Hampstead to visit the NT property at 2 Willow Road. It’s one of three residences in a block designed by the Hungarian architect Erno Goldfinger in 1939 for his private home. It’s a building clad in brick, not the usual white rendering we’re used to seeing on Modernist buildings.
The building replaced a row of Victorian cottages and there was heated local opposition to their demolition. Among the local residents was Ian Fleming who took such a great dislike to Goldfinger that he named one of his James Bond villains after him.
We watched an introductory film in what used to be the garage before having a very informative tour. The whole house is thoughtfully designed to make the best use of space and light, with movable panels and folding doors to make the maximum space for entertaining, and a lovely ceiling light-well which floods light into an otherwise small quite oppressive landing.
We were all especially interested in the tiny kitchen where Erno’s wife Ursula (née Blackwell from the Cross and Blackwell dynasty) used to make many meals for dinner parties. All the original packets were still in the kitchen cupboards and we tried to imagine just how she managed in such a tiny space. In comparison Erno had a rather grand spacious office to work in.
Also interesting was the bespoke furniture throughout the house, the books and ornaments still in situ and the surrealist display of objects in the glass wall by the front door. One of the compartments holds the letters which come through the letter box so the letters themselves become art.
Among the objects was a hopelessly elaborate candelabra and a Staffordshire pottery ornament left there from the time when Goldfinger’s mother came to stay; a surrealist statement amongst otherwise modern furnishings.
Goldfinger’s collection of modern art is still on display and includes work by Fernand Leger, Henry Moore, Roland Penrose, Max Ernst and Bridget Riley, not forgetting work by Ursula who was herself an artist.
After our visit we walked back into the centre of Hampstead for lunch. The sun came out and it was warm enough for some of us to take off our coats and to enjoy lunch al fresco!
On Friday 17th May members and guests went by coach to visit Blenheim Palace. There was so much to see and do. The Palace has numerous exhibitions to see. There is the very interesting exhibition about Winston Churchill including the room he was born in. This was followed by a tour of the State Rooms. At the end of the tour we entered the Long Library. At the end of the Long Library is the magnificent organ. We were very lucky as the organist was playing the organ some of the time. There was also the exhibition telling the Untold Story of Blenheim Palace which included the use of holograms . This exhibition explained the 300 hundred year history of the Palace.
Luckily it did not rain although it was a rather chilly day. However this did not stop many of us exploring the beautiful and very extensive grounds including the monument where Winston Churchill proposed to his wife Clementine. There is a beautiful walk around the lake ending with the the Blenheim Dam and Cascade Pumphouse.
A very enjoyable day was had by all.
48 WI members and guests set off from outside the Ursuline Convent, early doors, ready for the coach drive to Blenheim Palace. Ray, our able driver, took us expertly through rush hour traffic and after a slow start, showed admirable compassion by stopping for a quick comfort break and take-away coffees on the motorway.
Blenheim is a World Heritage Site and was created to celebrate victory over the French during the Wars of the Spanish Succession. It was a gift to the First Duke of Marlborough who was the military commander of the allied forces at the battle of Blindheim (Blenheim) on the 13th August 1704 by Queen Anne – of Kingston Market fame.
There was a lot to see in the house, which has been organised to offer two tours – one round the state rooms and another rather quirky tour, and aimed I felt at the American visitor. The US gentleman who was on my tour, thought it had been an amazing, skilfully thought out experience. I was not so enthusiastic and much preferred the buggy ride, around the grounds, guided by a very aristocratic gentleman, who had a lot of interesting stories and facts to share. The 4th Duke brought in Capability Brown to design the surrounding parkland and the 9th Duke created the formal gardens east and west of the Palace. The most famous member of the family was Sir Winston Churchill who was born at Blenheim and was the grandson of the 7th Duke. The current Duke is the 11th and has been responsible for making the house “pay its way” with restaurants, shopping opportunites, pleasure gardens etc etc.
We sadly left at 4.30pm after a group photograph of the Wimbledon WI and there was still a lot more to do and see. We had ghastly traffic on the way home, but arrived all safe and sound at around 7.00pm. My thanks goes to Gillian, ably aided by Daphne for a well organised day out. They certainly deserved the glass of wine I saw them both have at lunchtime – they probably needed two!
The ballet the Sleeping Beauty by Mathew Bourne was so unusual I was mesmerised. The house was packed and when it started there was a hush then laughter, as the most amazing baby puppet show took place. The choreography was exceptional and each time the baby puppet appeared it was electric. The dancing was exhausting to watch so one can imagine how fit the dancers were. The applause at the end was well deserved.
Friends and family joined WI Members for a fantastic Quiz Night. A chance to socialise and show off our knowledge. Agnes kept a firm control with the help of members of her family, scoring, collecting answer papers and asking the questions; Jennifer and family ran the bar efficiently; Joanna muddled through with the seating arrangements; fish and chips were delivered half way through to keep us going, and at the end the clearing up was done with an expertise that only the WI can provide!
Thanks to everyone who came and helped, it was a great success.
The most recent theatre trip, organised by Frieda Willis, was Chorus Line. Ten WI ladies watched as this West End and Broadway revival hit town again. I was slightly concerned as I was bringing my sister in law from Boston, as a 60th birthday present and had seen mixed reviews. We came up to town early, and strolled round Liberty’s, for half an hour before having an early supper at Le Pain de Quotidien, which I am sure you will all know, but I didn’t means – your daily bread – with a glass of wine. We sat near Warwick Davies and his family and they too were sitting near us at the Pallidium.
I thought the show was amazing, and certainly did not deserve the reviews of being dated and old fashioned. There was no interval and the performance shoe shuffled through, as you watched a line of hopeful auditionees sing, dance and tell their own story in the hopes of getting a role in a Broadway production. No scenery, just a white line drawn on the stage floor – no glitzy costumes until the final number when all the cast did a very traditional, high kicking routine that you had watched being rehearsed as the production went on.
Finally on the tube, we sat/stood beside a cast member, in full make-up with jeans and parka pulled on, making her way home, after hoofing through two performances that day. Wow.
Ten WI ladies went to see Kiss Me Kate at the Old Vic last month. We had excellent seats, thanks to Frieda picking them personally for us and though she did not lay on complementary ice-creams in the interval, we all agreed it was a very good evening. I for one, had not realised how many wonderful Cole Porter songs were in the production, and my foot was tapping throughout. At our performance, the leading lady was unwell, and it was with rather a sinking feeling that we viewed the notices pinned around the foyer, saying her understudy would be taking her place. We need not have worried, she was a star and the audience and the cast gave her an uproarious “well done” at her curtain call.